For Victoria Arvizu, giving to others is a full-time job—and one that she so clearly loves. The yogi devotes her days to teaching yoga and high school physical education in Lodi, New Jersey. Her yoga classes, taught at her very own studio, follow her signature style, High Energy Fusion Yoga, which incorporates fast-paced sequences, inversions, posture breakdowns, breathing exercises and meditation to help students reflect, rejoice and relax. Motivated by her own transformative experience with yoga, Victoria's shaping the way people experience the practice and making it more accessible to everyone—not just those who can swing a standard monthly membership. Here's how she’s helping bring yoga to a wider community, how mindfulness has changed her life... and the 10 songs she's been playing in all her classes.
How did you first get into yoga?
When I was fresh out of college I joined a salsa performance group. In order to be in one of the routines, I had to do the splits. There was no way! A friend suggested going to yoga classes. Even though I was very active, I remember being shocked at the difficulty of the first class. After a couple more trips to the yoga studio, I noticed that my chronic lower back pain disappeared, and, after about six months, I achieved my split. After that, I maintained a basic physical practice to keep myself pain-free and limber for other sports. Ten years later, after I become a yoga teacher, I came to the realization that the more yoga I did, the happier I became. That’s when I decided to put my other workout classes on the shelf and dedicate myself to the practice.
You own your own yoga studio, High Energy Fusion Yoga (named after the yoga style you created)! How did that come about?
If there is anything I would love to change in the yoga world, it would be the current lack of access to high-quality, affordable classes. I saw people, many of whom struggled to make ends meet, not attend yoga classes simply because of the price. This practice changes lives! And I wanted to bring it to as many people as possible. That said, I call myself the reluctant entrepreneur! I never thought I would have my own studio, and, even though I manage the nuts and bolts of the operation, it’s run as a cooperative effort with the other instructors.
We began teaching community classes once a week on Wednesdays and now have classes every day of the week. We provide value for our community by charging only $8 for a single 90-minute class, and we have grown from one or two students to a whole tribe of yogis who love this practice. I consider my teaching as part of my service to the world and have provided classes people can sustainably afford for five years now. Keeping our prices low and our quality high means that people from all backgrounds feel empowered to experience this practice, and, through our teacher trainings and other programs with community groups, we are spreading the message far and wide that yoga is for everyone.
How does your day job teaching students P.E. inform your yoga teaching and vice versa?
Aside from having content exposure and training in cutting-edge educational strategies and curriculum writing, my teenagers help me keep it real! They let me know when something isn’t working. Many of my techniques for progressing movement evolved from having to teach a 30-minute yoga class to 40 teenagers who had never been exposed to yoga. I had to learn to have clear-cut objectives, plan my classes with creativity and roll with the punches (there are not too many yoga teachers who have to deal with fire drills during meditation!).
Most importantly, my students remind me of the power of this practice and how many communities do not have access to it. They remind me of my purpose to provide accessible and empowering yoga. They remind me that I have to do better, and I strive to live up to those expectations.
How has your yoga practice impacted your day-to-day life?
My physical practice has kept me healthy and able to sustain a demanding teaching schedule. Yoga has brought me my livelihood, introduced me to the most wonderful and caring people and taken me around the world.
The part of the practice that people can’t see is what has impacted my day-to-day experience the most. In the last few years I have participated in a steady mindfulness practice. Mindfulness has transformed the way I live this life. I believe that the discipline of the physical practice helped me cultivate the willpower to set aside my own carefully-constructed identity. Through mindfulness, I had to take a hard look at how I was living, how I was interacting with those around me and how I felt about myself. Once I became less self-critical and more open to possibility, my world changed.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your yoga practice and how did you overcome it?
I had to redefine my practice when I dislocated my clavicle in 2015. The injury resulted in 18 months of physical therapy and intense acupuncture treatments and, even now, I get weekly acupuncture treatments to manage my symptoms.
At first, I really struggled with acceptance. I wish I could say I acted with grace and maturity, but that was not the case. When denial finally became acceptance, I had to take a hard look at what I had allowed my definition of yoga to become. I came face-to-face with the fact that, eventually, this body will not be able to do all the fancy things I came to love. I had to learn that movement is necessary, but development is not limited to movement. The moment that I chose to think about the injury with gratitude instead of sorrow, something shifted. My setback was an opportunity to stop “doing” yoga and focus more on living it.
What do you hope to accomplish next in your practice?
Dedicating my practice to others and encouraging them to continue coming to the studio keeps me motivated to develop my methods on my mat and in my classes. My focus as a teacher is to let go of the destination and become more intently interested in the journey. This is currently taking form in my newest set of curriculum, which is focused on cutting down the amount of overuse injuries that often crop up in a yoga practice. I am focusing all my efforts in developing my methods to keep myself and my students healthy and happy on the mat for years to come.
What advice would you give to people who may be interested in trying yoga but don’t know where to begin?
Do your research and don’t give up! There are many styles and schools of yoga. Try a variety of different styles both online and at home to see what pace, setting and focus are right for you. It sometimes helps to have an idea of what you would like to accomplish with your practice before you start searching. Some people are looking for fitness, some gentle stretching, and others meditation and stress reduction. Knowing what end result you are looking for can help narrow down the search.
Who inspires you in your practice? Fave. Instagram accounts?
I am constantly motivated and inspired by my beginner students. I remember what it was like to be in their shoes. My home practice is an experiment of movements that I think will help them the most.
On Instagram and, more importantly, in life, I owe so much to my besties Laura Sykora and Gabriella Dondero. They are two of the most supportive, patient and talented yoga athletes that I have ever met. We keep each other motivated to try new things and provide sounding boards for ideas and projects.
Songs you're loving for yoga practice right now?
I love music that makes me feel joyous! I am a big fan of vibrant dance music. Most of my current playlists look like a tribute to Drake. Here are my top 10 at the moment...